Jerusalem Post, September 20, 2016
The Holocaust is over. I have no authority to make this bold claim, for if I were to believe it then my background as the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors on my father’s side would be irrelevant, and no Jew directly victimized by the Holocaust would have any increased moral standing in commenting on the place of Holocaust memorial in today’s society.
Nor does living in Berlin for the past few months as a journalist give me any expertise on contemporary German-Jewish relations, although my choice of residence has made me more sensitive and privy to alltoo- common Holocaust analogies, especially in reference to Germany’s acceptance of hundreds of thousands of asylum-seekers and alleged opportunists from Syria and other Muslim countries.
For example, a few weeks after groups of migrants committed sexual assaults on New Year’s Eve, a German friend showed me an article comparing a notice announcing a German spa’s right to refuse service to Muslim migrants with Hitler-era signs banning Jews from German-owned businesses. I politely told him that Jews weren’t targeted because they committed mass sexual assaults.
Lately, the Holocaust has become the touchstone for so many moral, ethical, or political decisions or positions.
Jews and Germans alike are fighting the gas chambers and “Heil Hitlers” – retroactively. Easy now – and a little too late.
This retroactive war on the Holocaust translates into a concern with what appears to be right-wing nationalism, even innocent patriotism, and a slight on anyone’s race or religion whose scope bears no similarity to events leading up to Hitler’s horrors. “Activists” are still fighting the antisemitism of old that includes Nazism’s racial antisemitism and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion brand in which Jews are plotting to become Masters of the Universe.
As one example, in America, concern – sometimes hysteria – for the antisemitism of old reared its head when white supremacist David Duke announced his support for presidential candidate Donald Trump, justifying Trump’s opponents characterization of him as “Hitler.” In Germany, the newly successful anti-Islam party Alternative for Deutschland has been cast by the average left-wing German as the “Nazi party” to fear.
But the Holocaust is over. Thanks to the crushing Allied defeat and Holocaust education, the Nazis and their white-Supremacist relatives are universally recognized as anachronistic freaks with absolutely no legitimacy.
But how is the Holocaust over on a more abstract level? The Bible dealt with the issue of generational accountability with the phrase: “The sins of the fathers carry to the third and forth generations.”
Taking a rational approach to biblical commentary, I understand this to mean that three or four generations are required to learn from and flush out the evil that existed within a family or tribe. Germany is reaching that point.
But the Holocaust should be over because its memory is being distorted.
By consistently invoking the Holocaust as justification or a reason for this or that policy, we forget the conceptual underpinnings of tyranny and instead seek flawed oneto- one analogies between perceived political crimes of today and Nazi crimes.
Since the State of Israel didn’t exist at the time of the Holocaust, we have no recent historical basis for viewing discrimination against Israel, the seat of Jewish nationalism, as antisemitism.
This prompts Jew-haters to reason that since Nazis were nationalists fighting for the “Fatherland,” then Israelis fighting for the sacred Jewish “homeland” are today’s Nazis – the new “anti-Semites,” oppressing the Palestinian people. Fatah is the “Hagana” and Hamas the “Etzel” of Palestinian “Zionism.” Muslims are the Jewish refugees of the 1930s and ‘40s. The BDS movement targeting Israeli products is actually a human rights movement.
The Holocaust was a singular event in which very specific crimes were committed by specific actors in a specific time and place. The concepts that led to Nazi dictatorship and destruction, however, have escorted humankind since the dawn of history.
Tyranny is the obliteration of individual human rights – the overturning of moral absolutes against theft and murder – for the sake of a collective, religion, state, or idea.
The “People of the Book” who introduced moral absolutes in the form of the Ten Commandments are usually the first victims of authentic tyranny.
If we were to apply a conceptual understanding of the Holocaust, rather than an emotional perception of it, to current events, then today’s threat of Jewish genocide comes in the form of Islamic totalitarianism that seeks to destroy the Jewish state and burn its synagogues, if the aftermath of the 2005 pullout from Jewish Gaza is any indication. Today, the free, democratic Israel stands in the way of total Islamic rule in the Middle East. But now, in the name of the Holocaust, Islam and its practitioners cannot be held to rational suspicion because of “Never Again.”
No doubt, the Holocaust is the greatest assault ever committed on the Jewish people and possibly humanity. To move forward in discourse preventing another Holocaust, we must learn from its horrors but cease to react emotionally to it.
Only then can we build a conceptual base to make decisions based on what is right and ethical and not out of fear, guilt, or belated heroism.
So the next time German Chancellor Angela Merkel says Germany has a historical responsibility to open borders indiscriminately to Muslims (as if she weren’t sure Germany has overcome its racist past), I want to say: the Holocaust is over. The next time Israel bases its right to exist on the Holocaust, I want to say: the Holocaust is over. And the next time I hear people say they won’t set foot in Germany because the country is soaked in Jewish blood, I want to say, even to the delight of Holocaust deniers: the Holocaust is, actually, over.